Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Tattoo Designs are Timeless

Speaking on the topic of popular tattoo designs is a touchy subject. Today's eye-catching design is tomorrow's "oh wow, you have some meaningless Asian symbol on your back like everyone else." The best tattoos (like the best music, movies, and vehicles) are timeless. When looking for a good tattoo design, I would advice above all else to not choose one that is "popular." Sure, it might win over the approval of your friends in the short-term, but think of all the things that were "popular" ten years ago. Would you care to be caught dead amidst those things today?
It would be easy to bombard you with different kinds of very popular tattoos being inked all over the world today. But if you came here to be told that a barbed-wire bicep tattoo is "cool", then you need more help than I can provide. Everyone knows what types of tattoos are popular. I'll bet a dollar to a punch in the stomach that many of them will be anything but "cool" in a decade. So rather than focus on what everyone else is doing, let's focus on how to go about finding a unique tattoo design that will be something you'll proudly display for years to come. After all, Family Guy might be a popular TV show today, will it be popular forever? Probably not. Your tattoo, however, plans to be around for quite a long time.
Finding the perfect tattoo can sometimes be as impossible as finding the perfect spouse or dog. One day you'll love it, and the next you'll wish it wasn't there. Like a friend of mine who was dared to tattoo a figure of George Bush doing yoga on his forearm while drunk - there never was a day he regretted that move. As with all things permanent, it would be wise to address any candidate tattoo design with the utmost scrutiny. After all, it's your skin and that ink isn't exactly going to wash off in the shower. When looking for a tattoo design, there are plenty of options at your disposal. Don't be afraid to search endlessly for the perfect design. If you ask people with multiple tattoos to tell you about their favorite one, chances are they'll tell you it took them a long time to settle on the design. Here are a few ideas for tracking down a tattoo design that you'll fall in love with:

Avoid References to Anything Mainstream

An easy way to filter out any "popular" (and thus, likely not timeless) tattoo is to avoid anything transient. Pretend for a moment that you're an alien observing Earth from outer space. You look around, and generally get a really good feel for the place. Then, you fly away and come back ten years later to look around again. If you think your tattoo has any connection to something that the aliens might see on their first trip, but might not see on their second trip, scrap the idea immediately. This includes characters from movies or TV shows, funny references, or the name of your current partner.

Figure Out What Defines You

In a society with as much pressure and judgment as ours, it can be hard to remember "who you are" at the end of the day. To remember this, you might spend some time in solitude or in the company of really close friends. In this moment, you'll be more aware of the worldview and qualities you won't mind expressing through a tattoo. A tattoo design that truly captures the essence of an individual is almost never a bad one. Trust me, your essence is more than just Cartman from South Park mooning someone or the logo of the superhero whose movie is coming out this summer.

Ambiguity Is Good

In general, try to avoid any tattoo that doesn't need an explanation. A heart that says .Mom. in the middle of it is great and all, but no one needs to ask what it means. It means you love your Mom. The point of a tattoo is to identify yourself and grab the attention of others. Almost everyone loves their Mom, and for exactly that reason, it doesn't make for an interesting tattoo. Of course, you don't want a tattoo that is so ambiguous that even you don't know what it means! So the pretty Chinese symbol hanging on the wall of the tattoo parlor that I think means "love and peace or maybe solidarity, I forget," isn't going to impress anyone. The best tattoo would be the one you'd be most likely to want in a world where you are the last remaining human.

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